One of the standout characteristics of a big rig, semi-truck, 18-wheeler, box truck or other commercial vehicle is that they are seldom, if even used for personal purposes. If you are involved in an auto accident with such a truck, the odds are good that it was being operated for business purposes.
The importance of this fact lies in the identification of the responsible parties if it becomes necessary to pursue a legal claim for damages against the operator of the truck.
Many times the truck driver will be an employee or a contractor, but not the person responsible for keeping the truck engaged in commercial activity.
Under Texas law, the doctrine of "respondeat superior," also known as "vicarious liability," can enable you to establish a cause of action against the business owner and not just the driver.
Vicarious liability is not something that happens automatically. It must be specifically alleged, and there are distinct elements that you must establish in order to prevail.
These elements center on the existence of a business connection between the truck involved in the accident and the owner of the truck or the company that has hired or contracted with the driver, as well as the performance by the truck driver of a business purpose and not a personal activity at the time of the collision.
If such a business relationship is made, the significance is that it is much more likely that the business owner will have more substantial financial resources or insurance from which to pay your damages claims as compared to the truck driver. This can be critical if you are seriously injured or your property has been badly damaged.
Vicarious liability in a truck accident is seemingly simple in concept, but can be subject to complications in proof as well as legal defenses that the company may raise. Especially in today’s economy, with its growth of independent contractors in jobs that used to be performed by employees, having the assistance of legal counsel to establish your cause of action and to deal with the legal defenses that may be attempted.